Last week’s episode of Walker picks up right where the previous one left off, and doesn’t let up on the tension for pretty much the entire episode, thanks to writer David James and director Richard Speight, Jr.
Cordell wakes up to Emily’s voice, telling him to wake up and not stay cuffed to a sink.
Cordell: Honestly, cuffed to an old sink in the middle of nowhere is about how I’m feeling right now, emotionally.
So many of us can relate, Cordi.
Also, oddly, it’s a familiar situation for Jared Padalecki’s characters.
He’s traumatized by learning that Coop was actually a deserter and a coward instead of someone he admired and thus modeled his whole life after, questioning what would have been different if he’d seen through him. Would Liam not have been tortured? Would Hoyt still be alive? Would he even be a Ranger at all?
Emily reminds him he’s not a deserter or a coward, even if his self doubt is winning out right now. She’s the voice of reason in his head when he considers just trying to shoot his way out of the cuffs, and finds a smarter – dare I say a totally McGyver way – to do it instead. We get to see a very badass and resourceful Cordell indeed, chewing his way through a bullet to accomplish that.
Meanwhile, Trey thinks he’s fooled Kevin into believing he’s a loyal Grey Flag operative now. We learn that Kevin actually poisoned himself, which is…. Disturbing…
Last Thursday was a double dose of excitement for Walker fans – the original show returned for its third season and its brand new prequel, Walker Independence, premiered right after. For me as a long-time Supernatural fan (who’s been a Walker fan since the start), it felt a little like the “good old days” of Supernatural fandom, with anticipation all day and then a live tweet fest with fans and cast alike all sharing their real-time reactions. Jared Padalecki and Gen Padalecki joined in the fun, which made it extra special for fans – and I think most of us were not at all disappointed with either the original show’s return or what looks to be an excellent new show in Walker Independence!
I’m not doing an actual review of Walker Independence (because holy crap there are a lot of shows out there to watch right now!) but suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and its intriguing cast of characters. I can’t wait to see more and will be watching on Thursday nights for sure. (Shout out to an epic callback – Hoyt’s horse is named Cordell. Cue all the innuendo that invites…)
As the second episodes prepare to air, let’s look back at what happened on the season premiere of Walker.
We get a brief recap (as if anyone forgot that Cordell didn’t come back from his run with Trey and Liam!). Dan Miller is mentioned, so we know he’s still around, which makes me very happy indeed – I love Dave Annable and his character, and I always thought Dan got kind of a raw deal, so I’m glad to hear that the Walkers gave him some of the disputed land back. More Dan and Liam push-pull-kinda-reluctant-friendship please!
And then we pick up right where we left off, with poor Cordell being dragged to a shady looking van and tossed inside.
That set the tone for the episode for Walker, who spent it locked in a cage and periodically tortured by his captors as they tried to “break” him.
The men refer to him as their new inside guy, saying they have to “initiate” him. Honestly I don’t entirely understand what their goal was as they keep torturing him and demanding that he somehow give in so they can stop. Give in to what? They’re not asking him for any information. I guess they want him to agree to join them? Not sure how torture gets someone to want to do that, but Cordell figures out they want him to be Fenton’s replacement.
Bad Guy No. 2: So this is the war hero, huh?
That cues us in that what Cordell is going to experience is tied into his past, and whatever trauma he went through then.
The music during the initial putting-a-blindfolded-Cordell-in-a-cage montage was a good song, very Supernatural-esque, but I’m mostly not a fan of how prominent the music is sometimes in the show. In this case, it mostly worked, but sometimes it pulls me right out of a scene that might otherwise have been powerful. In this episode, however, the music was well chosen and worked with the couple of scenes in which music was prominent.
We get to hear Cordell’s thought process as he uses his training and experience to try to figure out where he is and who’s holding him, first with a monologue and later as he imagines Emily there with him, keeping him calm and helping him talk through strategizing.
As I sit down to write a review of the first season’s finale, let me be honest about something. I wasn’t sure I’d love Walker. As a Supernatural fan who had come to love Sam Winchester and the man who played him so brilliantly, of course I was going to give Jared Padalecki’s new show a try. I’d worked with Jared to write an autobiographical book chapter in ‘Family Don’t End With Blood’ and gotten to know him a little, so I was thrilled when he was given this new show to film right in his own backyard. I had never watched the original Walker Texas Ranger either; it wasn’t my kind of show. The first few episodes, I watched because it was Jared, and I was happy for him. But little by little, Walker grew on me. The characters began to be fleshed out, and the themes of the show began to make themselves clear, especially how grief and loss can impact a family – and sometimes tear them apart. My psychologist brain was intrigued. And then my heart got pulled in.
As the season progressed, Walker paralleled what was happening with the Supernatural fandom, a family also being torn apart by grief and loss. Walker became a refuge – a brand new little fandom which has not yet fragmented into ship wars and favorite character factions trying to tear each other apart on any given day. The Walker fandom right now is a smaller group of fans who seem happy to watch the show and ship anyone and everyone and let everyone else ship different anyones and everyones without any shaming (imagine!) – or ship no one at all. Who happily post thirsty gifs of shirtless Cordell and Trey but are also excited to hear about props from the engaging crew or to celebrate that week’s guest star. Who are rooting for Liam and Bret to get back together – and also for Abeline and Bonham. Who celebrate Micki and Geri’s burgeoning friendship (or ship them, whatever…) and the way Augie and Stella can open up to each other a little. Thursdays have been a drama-free let’s-all-watch-and-enjoy evening, with Padalecki and some of the other cast joining in to live tweet or do Instagram takeovers. It’s been FUN. I’d almost forgotten when fandom was FUN.
The cast and crew shared some little videos of Lindsey Morgan and Coby Bell wrapping their seasons, and the hugs that the cast shared as they celebrated, and it seems like they had as much fun filming the show as the fandom did watching it – even though it was clearly challenging to film during the pandemic. Many of the actors have talked about the positive atmosphere on the set and credited Jared with setting that tone – just like he and Jensen Ackles did on Supernatural. I feel like oddly proud of that, watching that legacy be carried on.
I’m so glad that Walker is already renewed for a Season 2, so I have more of that to look forward to. For now, here are my thoughts on the Season 1 finale, as Walker wraps up its very first season.
The final episode picks up right where we left off, in a tense confrontation between Walker and former boss Stan. Walker confronts Stan over the two dead bodies (literally), holding a gun on him, accusing him of forcing Carlos to confess to Emily’s murder. Stan keeps protesting that’s not what happened, though he admits he was there. He insists it was his idea to pay Carlos and that Cali forced his hand. (We will later find out that this is partly true, but the truth is also a lot more painful than Stan is letting on). Cordell realizes that the dead reporter must have had something on him, and starts to understand just how dark this scenario really is. Jared Padalecki makes this scene incredibly tense from the very start, as he brokenly asks Stan, “did you kill my wife?”
“Cordi,” Stan answers, using the familiar nickname – a reminder that this is a man who has been nearly part of the family for a very long time, making it an even worse betrayal when he denies it.
Cordell suspects Stan still has people on the inside who will help him, so instead of taking him in and following the rules, he orders him to get in the car and “drive”.
Shout out to the suspenseful music here, which amps up the tension without getting in the way of it. This episode really did feel like a roller coaster at times.
While Stan and Cordell are driving and all hell is breaking loose, the rest of the Walkers are at Stan’s (very large) house that he offered to them for the wedding vow renewals. The juxtaposition of the rest of the family all casually setting up flowers and decorations at Stan’s house while Stan is driving at gunpoint is striking.
Augie finds a key under a statue (as you do) and they let themselves in. As they take in the opulence, Augie wonders why, if he lives in a house this nice, Stan wants to be DA, which is a relevant question. Why does Stan have such a nice house?? Hmmm.
(Of course the entire fandom has found Stan sus from the jump, so no one is actually surprised by the house).
The rest of the family is clueless and un-angsty for the Walker clan, Stella saying that her dad has “actually been pretty cool lately.” Stan even has a framed photo of Cordell’s swearing in, with a pregnant Emily beaming proudly.
Last week’s Walker episode (‘A Tale of Two Families’) was hard to watch at times. That’s not a criticism though – the show has explored grief since its start, and the reason I appreciate that exploration is because it’s done well enough to feel real. This episode, thanks to some stellar acting by Jared Padalecki especially, felt very real. And that was hard to watch.
There were a few scenes that were hard to watch for a different reason that wasn’t quite as welcome, but mostly I came to the end of the episode feeling gobsmacked but like that’s exactly how I was supposed to feel.
The episode was a little more innovative than the show has been so far, starting out with a beginning sequence that picks up where the last episode left off, Walker and Stella returning to the ranch. We see in little flashes a sequence play out of Clint and Trevor driving up, Clint holding a gun on Cordell as Stella screams ‘Dad!’. Liam runs out of the house to help, Cordell yells ‘Liam!’ – and Clint shoots him!
That was quite a beginning!
We then get a flashback to 13 months ago, to the day that kicked off the trauma and loss we’ve seen the characters struggle with ever since. Emily loads up her car with bottles of water to take to the border. Augie asks if he can use her camera and she says she was hoping he’d pick it up – and we immediately realize why he’s followed up on that hope. It was one of the last things she said to her son, and the last wish she expressed for him.
Augie: What should I take a picture of?
Emily: (striking a pose): Something to remember me by!
Of course she has no idea how poignant and prophetic her words are going to be.
Emily also kicks a ball around with Stella (Gen Padalecki putting her real life sports skills to good use), asking her if she’s sure about playing basketball since she’s so good at soccer. Stella, too, has tried to follow her mother’s last expressed wishes by doing just that.
Emily and Cordell talk on the phone and she reminds him of game night and they trade ‘I love you’ ‘I love you more,”
Somehow ‘Walker’ has reached its midseason already – and while this wasn’t technically billed as a midseason finale, it certainly felt like one!
The episode begins with a scene that’s really hard to watch – Walker at the medical examiner’s office to identify his wife’s body. Geri frantically tries to wipe Emily’s blood off her jacket and finally takes it off before she goes to stand with him, distraught. She asks if he’s told the kids yet and he answers that he will, “in time.” It’s an understandable reaction – when a loss is so gigantic, you almost don’t want to make it real by talking about it – and you don’t want to cause your children the same kind of incredible pain that you’re feeling.
James comes out to tell them to come in, and Geri clutches his hand, overlays it with hers, tearfully reminding him “I love you, buddy.”
Jared Padalecki (confronted with his real life wife playing dead on a slab) makes Cordell’s extreme grief and rage intensely believable. I couldn’t help but feel for Jared, having heard him talk about how hard it was to portray his previous character, Sam Winchester, in scenes where his brother (Jensen Ackles) had died. That was his real life best friend; this was his real life wife. Acting has got to be hard on the heart sometimes!
I had a difficult time watching Walker’s grief from my own perspective. Not only is Padalecki brilliant in portraying it, but I am still so raw from witnessing him portray Sam Winchester’s grief at the end of Supernatural that seeing him in a similar state again was almost unbearable. His half-hysterical “we’ve gotta get her out of here, it’s too cold” just broke my heart, the denial so understandable, so painful. James tries to say that revenge won’t bring him peace, but he’s not ready to hear it, breaking down as he touches Emily’s face for the last time. It’s such a similar moment of abject grief as Sam sobbing as he says goodbye to Dean, and when I was watching this episode live, I had to pause to collect myself. That says something really good about Jared’s acting, but ouch.
Jared was incredible filming both these scenes, but they are so hard to watch. I suspect they always will be.